What Is the Source of This Darkness of Our Times?
by Msgr. Charles Pope
Scripture consistently uses the term “darkness” to refer to that which is contrary to God's order and truth. Even in the very opening lines of Genesis the world is described as kind of primeval emptiness and without form or order: The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep (Gen 1:2). But, Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light (Gen 1:3) and thus order began to be introduced. God spoke his word successively, and from this word there came order, from raw elements came that which was rational, orderly, and life-giving.
It began with the first word, “Let there be light.”
Down through Scripture, in passages too numerous to fully reproduce here, darkness consistently symbolized that which was contrary to God, to order and law. The theme echoed in the Ninth Plague of Exodus: there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the people of Israel had light where they lived (Ex 10:22-23). It echoes in the prophets. Through Ezekiel God spoke tenderly of his people saying I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark (Ez 34:12).
And in St. John’s Gospel the battle between light and darkness is described. The prologue says The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (Jn 1:5); yet still, in the third chapter of John, Jesus laments This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil (Jn 3:19). The darkness reaches its pinnacle when Judas goes out to betray the Lord. John says simply, it was night (Jn 13:30).
St Paul picks up the theme in numerous places, warning that we walk no longer as the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding (Eph 4:17-19). And he sadly depicts the Greeks and Romans as those who suppress the truth and their senseless minds, darkened by sin, approved homosexual acts and many other forms of sin (Rom 1:17ff).
In our own times, almost an exact replica of the sick culture described in Romans 1, it is hard to describe our times is anything but dark.
But whence this darkness, where did that come from? Surely there is a long philosophical trail one can trace. But I would propose here merely to focus on one particular aspect of the reason for darkness in our times.
In a word, the darkness is fueled by intemperance. For indeed, as Thomas teaches so well in the Summa, sins of intemperance have a particularly powerful role in darkening the intellect.
Temperance as a general virtue helps us to moderate excesses or defects regarding all aspects of life. However, St. Thomas in the Summa treats of it as a “special” virtue that is limited especially to the bodily appetites. This is because other virtues especially fortitude, exist to moderate spiritual matters. (cf IIa, IIae, 141, art 1-3).
And thus Thomas treats of temperance is a special virtue oriented especially toward moderating matters of taste and touch; and chief among the sins against intemperance are gluttony and lust, along with the related matters of drunkenness, immodesty, and incontinence.
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